No D&D this week, so I’ll save the next Nentir Vale post for next Tuesday. That way it’ll be fresh in everybody’s mind.
My Christmas bonus from the dayjob this year came in the form of a gift card for the Melting Pot. I’d never been to a fondue restaurant before, but to my knowledge it was something like hibachi in presentation. It ended up being an evening where both the missus and I tried new things and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Our evening began with the drive out to The Shops at Valley Square. We ended up needing something resembling a reservation, a factor that didn’t occur to me until we’d left the apartment, of course. We put ourselves in for an 8:30 table (we’d arrived just after 6:30) and killed time at the Border’s and Yankee Candle located nearby. We both want to go back to Valley Square, some time when it’s not bitterly howlingly freeze-your-extremities-off cold outside.
While I’m thinking of it, Valley Square owners, have you ever thought of going the AstroDome route? A big, collapsable dome you could raise over the shops and heat? It’d make winter shopping much more palatable. Then again, it might make markup unacceptable to the shops. Hmm.
Anyway. Melting Pot.
Know going into the place that you’re getting a four-course meal. And two of the courses, cheese and chocolate, are quite filling. Thankfully, they’re spaced far enough apart that you can have room for both, and the manner of the ‘main’ course makes you pace yourself. But I’m jumping ahead a bit.
All of the tables at the Melting Pot that we saw are booths, with a hot plate situated in the middle of the table. On this plate is the fondue pot itself, and each place has a set of fondue forks, standard forks and knives. Our server, CJ, very personably got to know us and walked us through what was going to happen. She’s a vegetarian and dating a picky eater so she understood my wife’s predicaments with the food selection. However, we settled on a few things and got the experience started.
First Course: Cheese
We’d chosen the swiss cheese blend. CJ took a little white wine, a spoonful of garlic, a heaping helping of shredded swiss, a sprinkling of nutmeg, a touch of Kirschwasser and a squirt from a lemon. We were provided with a large bowl of bread bits, some veggies and a cup of sliced apples. The result was absolutely delicious. The cheese took on a bit more bite as we worked through it, which we attributed to the wine. Eating fondue cheese with apples was also odd, as the heat of the cheese was immediately cut by the chilled apple while the sweet thick taste of the swiss felt interrupted by the sour Granny Smith flavor. We ended up asking for more bread. We took turns with one of our favorite Scott Pilgrim lines: “Bread makes you FAT??”
Second Course: Salad
Every dish and selection at the Melting Pot is “moddable.” You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want. My wife’s Caesar salad was served naked at her request, though she seemed to fear getting stabbed on the Senate steps for eating a Caesar salad without Caesar dressing. I assured her that wouldn’t happen. My salad was a house salad with house dressing, which was a tangy mango affair drizzled over a club salad that was unfortunately missing bacon. It doesn’t come with bacon, mind you – it just would have been better with bacon. Mmm. Bacon.
Third Course: Mains
There was some debate over this course. You see, the food for the mains is served unprepared. You get to cook it yourself in the pot. The pot is a collective broth everyone at the table uses to cook their meals. As I didn’t want to offend my wife’s palate, I both told her she could cook hers first and let her decide what broth we’d use. We went with the Mojo Style, a Caribbean-style blend that smelled like the sort of jerked fare available at MusikFest or a similar outdoor event. It was an interesting style, and I found myself liking it.
My wife tried some new things on her vegetarian platter. She sampled the artichoke heart and the marinated tofu, liking the latter but not a fan of the former. I relieved her of her portabella mushrooms. I chose the Pacific Rim, a selection including Teriyaki-marinated sirloin, white shrimp, marinated pork tenderloin, breast of duck (which CJ described as duck a l’orange), breast of chicken and potstickers. I don’t think I’d ever had duck before that night, and it was… well, not great. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really taste all that different from other poultry. I may change things up the next time I go, subbing the duck for portabella and maybe the pork for more sirloin. My wife may skip this course entirely, opting for an ala carte salad. Possibly more bread.
Fourth Course: Chocolate
There were a lot of choices here, and they all had appeal. There’s an option to create your own chocolate fondue with a mix of chocolates (white, milk and dark) and a selection of liquers such as Bailey’s, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Chambord. I liked the idea of a chocolate-orange fondue using milk or dark chocolate and Grand Marnier, but we opted for the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Marshmellow Dream, with milk instead of dark chocolate in defence to my wife’s tastes as well as marshmellow cream. CJ flambéed the dessert, swirled the contents of the pot and added Oreo cookie crumbs. For dipping we had strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, Rice Krispies treats, marshmellows dusted in graham cracker and chocolate, pound cake and brownies.
It was every bit as delicious as it sounds.
Not only was the Melting Pot some great food and fantastic service, it was a lot of fun. I can imagine the fun factor goes up exponentially with more people, but the setting was intimate enough that we had a fantastic evening.